By STP (STPteach@aol.com)
"Yeow!" yelped Johnny in pain.
"Johnny, you all right?" asked Roy with concern as he came running into the kitchen when he heard his partner.
"Damn! Yeah, yeah, I'll be all right. Dang that hurts!" groaned Johnny.
"Oh, for crying out loud, Gage," interjected Chet incredulously, "it's a lousy paper cut!"
"I _know_ that, but it hurts like the dickens!" countered John. He looked around the room searching for one sympathetic face; he didn't find any.
"Gage, you are amazing," declared Chet. "You have got to be the biggest wimp when it comes to hurting yourself, which by the way you seem to have more practice at than all of the rest of us put together."
"Chet, knock it off! I am not a wimp."
"Yeah, Gage, you are. You complain about every little thing. Every time poor little Johnny Gage gets an 'owie' the whole station has to hear about it."
Johnny listened to Chet's accusations and felt like the wind was knocked out of him. He looked around the room, wondering if anyone was going to help him dispute Chet's charges.
Didn't look too likely.
"Now listen here, Chester B., I may have my share of injuries, but I do _not_ complain about them," replied John firmly.
"Dream on, Gage," Chet retorted.
"Hey, Guys? Anyone gonna help me out here? Anyone?" He turned to the person immediately to his right, which just happened to be the station's engineer. "C'mon, Mike, tell him I do not complain on and on."
Everyone could see Mike's discomfort and obvious hesitation in responding. Finally, Mike gave in and said what was pretty much on everyone's mind, "Well, to be honest, Johnny, you are a little melodramatic."
"Melodramatic? Me?" he responded, well, melodramatically. "Look, just because I'm not afraid of expressing my feelings a little doesn't make me a melodramatic complaining wimp!"
"No, it makes you a melodramatic, complaining, wimpy whiner," rejoined Chet.
"I do not whine!"
"Well, yeah, you kind of do, Johnny," responded Marco quietly, and upon seeing the wounded look on his shift-mate's face immediately added, "Well, just a little."
"I don't believe this," answered an exasperated Gage, "I just do not believe this."
"Gage, face it. When you became a paramedic, you got soft!" Chet looked quickly at Roy and immediately said, "Of course not all paramedics are soft. Present company excluded, Roy."
"Oh, gee, thanks," responded Roy, who was having a tough time keeping a straight face. Poor Johnny was getting the brunt of some not so good-natured teasing, but in all honesty, he couldn't totally disagree with the rest of his colleagues.
Roy thought his partner was one of the best firefighter paramedics in the county, and he trusted his own life in Johnny's hands. However, the man did know how to milk an injury for a little attention. Not that he didn't always deserve it; Johnny had more than his fair share of bad breaks. Yet, he did seem to fuss more over the small misfortunes, like a paper cut or a stubbed toe. Perhaps his partner could benefit from a little teasing, if it would teach him a lesson not to 'cry wolf' all the time.
"Roy, would you please tell them I do not whine!" Johnny, well, whined.
"Listen, Junior, I think I'm gonna stay out of this one," insisted Roy.
"See? Even his partner agrees with us!" offered Chet triumphantly.
"I didn't say that!" contradicted Roy.
"No, you didn't," agreed Johnny a little glumly, "but you didn't stand up for me either."
"Look, all I mean is," began Roy feeling like he was caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, "I've got to work with you, and if I say anything you're gonna take it the wrong way and I don't want to chance that."
"Guess it depends upon what you were gonna say," muttered John.
"Okay, okay, that's enough," announced Cap, who spoke for the first time since Chet began razzing the youngest member of A Shift. "I think we all got the message, Chet."
"Yeah, but the point is, what is _he_ gonna do about it?" asked Chet while pointing at Johnny.
"There's nothing for me do about it, 'cause there ain't nothing to 'it!'" declared Johnny forcefully.
"Right. Gage, you couldn't go a day without complaining and whining about something!" accused Chet.
"Chet, that's ridiculous. I don't complain and whine!"
"Right. Like I said, you couldn't do it." When Gage proceeded to deny the accusation again, Chet said, "So, you don't, huh? Well, how about we make a little friendly wager?"
"Chet, you're on shaky ground here, Pal," interjected Hank.
"No, Cap, not for money. How about latrine duty? Yeah, how about for a month's worth of shifts the loser gets to do bathroom detail?" Chet proposed.
"I don't whine for twenty-four hours and you'll get the latrine assignment for a month? Piece of cake, Chester B.," declared John.
"Well, for a month's worth of duty, I'd say a fairer wager would be for you to go a full week without moaning and groaning and fussing and griping about every little thing." Chet looked at Gage and let him think about his proposal for a minute. "Well?"
"Chet, I think the whole thing is ridiculous, but__," Gage began, but Roy interrupted.
"__Hold on a second. This bet can be suspended for injuries sustained in the line of duty, right?" Roy started ticking off the number of times his partner claimed he was fine after being knocked over by a backdraft or having a beam fall on top of him. He wanted to make sure they weren't going to do anything that would endanger his partner's life.
"Yeah, I suppose. If you get hurt in the line of duty, then we suspend the bet," agreed Chet. He realized it was to all of their benefits that Gage was able to readily admit if he weren't a hundred per cent when on the lines. It could be a life or death situation for all of them if one of them only pretended to be fit for duty.
While the two firemen shook hands, Roy looked on and shook his head a little. He had a strange feeling this little bet was going to come back and bite them all in the ass.
Later that evening John had walked right into the cabinet door and nearly cursed his misfortune out loud. One look over at Chet, who was sitting with a Cheshire cat smile, made him close his mouth immediately.
"Gee, Gage, looks like that might have really hurt," he razzed.
"Your concern is touching," replied Johnny sarcastically who walked hurriedly out of the kitchen. He stepped into the dorm and immediately began rubbing his bruised thigh. "Ouch," he muttered to himself.
"Hey, you okay?" asked his partner.
"I bumped into the damn door," he groused, though he quickly added, "but I'm not complaining."
"Johnny, I never said you were," Roy replied with a smile. He wondered if his partner was going to survive this latest ordeal. Somehow, whenever Chet and Johnny mix it up, nothing good comes of it. For some reason Roy had a bad feeling about this, but he couldn't explain what it was or why he felt it.
The night was a quiet one, so the men felt well rested and attacked their morning shift duties with more vigor than usual. Marco, for a change, was actually assigned to the latrine, while Chet got cooking detail.
While Roy and John tended to the squad and their supplies, John grumbled, "I can't wait to see what Kelly comes up with to poison us all."
Roy laughed, "I gotta agree with you there, John. The trouble is, the man thinks he's the fire department's answer to Julia Child!"
Even Johnny chuckled as he agreed with his partner's assessment. It was a fact of life that as much as everyone sometimes had a tough time getting Chet Kelly's concoctions down without gagging, the man had no trouble eating his own cooking. The fact of the matter was he actually enjoyed his own culinary works a lot. A real lot. So it was kind of difficult to tell the stubborn Irishman otherwise.
By the time dinnertime rolled around, Roy and Johnny had made several runs that day. The calls weren't particularly difficult nor fortunately life threatening, but the constant state of activity was tiring nonetheless.
Both men sat down at the dinner table, having just returned from their sixth run of the day, and waited patiently to find out what Chet had cooked up. Marco passed out the glasses and silverware while Mike put out the milk and juice. Hank entered the kitchen, ready to put the mounds of paperwork he'd been attacking behind him, and asked the chef du jour, "Well, pal, what's on the menu tonight?"
"It's a Kelly family recipe, Cap. A Kelly specialty," he said with a flourish.
"Okay, so it's the piece de resistance," agreed John wearily, "just give us a hint so we'll know what we're supposed to recognize."
"Very funny, Gage," Chet retorted, and then asked, "That sounds almost like a complaint to me... does it sound like complaining to anybody else?"
"Kelly, cut it out," retorted Roy. The more senior paramedic was just as tired as his colleague.
"Okay, okay," conceded Chet. He took a dramatic pause and then announced, "We are having the famous Kelly Family Irish Stew.
"Yum," John responded with little enthusiasm.
"Hey, John, ya never know, it might be good?" Marco questioned more than stated.
"Right, and I'll believe that as much as I believe you love having me serve hamburgers every time I cook," replied John.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Chet called everyone to order. "Let us not complain about the feast until we have at least tried a taste, okay?"
"Listen, men, Kelly does have a point," stated the ever-pragmatic captain. "Let's taste it; heck, he may surprise us." The captain's words were greeted with several snorts, to which he had no reply. He wouldn't believe Chet's stew was edible either until proven otherwise.
Chet dished up the plates for his shift-mates and then sat down at the table with them. He waited. He waited some more. "C'mon, guys! Aren't you gonna eat?"
"We're waiting for you to test it out for us," Gage said half-seriously.
"Fine." Chet picked up a forkful of stew and proceeded to pop it in his mouth. He 'ummed' and he 'ahhed' until the other men couldn't take it any longer. They each picked at the dish, sniffed at the food before them, and then tentatively put some of the Chet's family recipe into their mouths.
"Umm, you know what?" said Roy incredulously, "This isn't bad."
"No, it's not bad at all," murmured the others, and all at once, the men of A Shift were wolfing down the Irish Stew. Even John had to admit it tasted pretty good and managed to clean his plate as well.
He was, however, way too tired to even think about a second plateful. He brought his dish to the sink, washed it off, and placed it in the drain board.
"There's dessert, Gage, if you're not afraid I'm gonna poison ya, that is," Chet said sarcastically.
"Thanks, Chet, but I'm willing to take a chance with my life only once a meal, thanks." He said it with a smile however, so even Kelly recognized the fact that his friendly adversary enjoyed his offering.
"Tough day, huh," said Marco.
Johnny shrugged, to which Roy explained, "Just long. Lots of calls and no time to catch our breath. This was a nice break, Chet. Thanks." He then looked at his partner and said, "I'm right behind you, Johnny. I get the recliner."
Johnny laughed at that, since Roy knew he preferred the couch anyway. The two paramedics collapsed on the couches, while Mike helped Chet clean up the dishes. They turned on the television, but were asleep within minutes.
A couple of hours of peace and quiet passed by when Johnny woke up with a gnawing pain in his abdomen. He sat up and instinctively moved his hand to rub his stomach. It wasn't a sharp pain, far from it. It was more like a dull ache, but it was certainly enough to make him uncomfortable. His first instinct was that he was coming down with a cold or flu. Just what he needed - an opening for Chet to accuse him of whining and, even worse, 'belly-aching'.
Chet! Johnny's next, immediate thought was to blame Chet's stew; it would be just his luck to eat something of Kelly's that would give him food poisoning. Given their bet, it would certainly be ironic.
Johnny figured he'd just have to ride it out for a couple of more days. He'd take a couple of aspirin and maybe even some of that pink over the counter stuff. If the symptoms didn't abate, he'd be sure to see one of the docs at Rampart. For now, however, pride simply would not allow him to admit a common virus or even Chet's lousy cooking had the potential to get him stuck with latrine duty for a month.
It was just as busy the next day. Though in the past the guys were used to working only a twenty-four hour shift, the fire chief wanted to try out a new three day on, five day off schedule to try and use the shifts more efficiently. So, A Shift got to spend one more twenty-four hour period together. All of the men wanted to be the first in line to tell the chief his new schedule stunk. Roy kept mumbling something about 'there being no rest for the weary,' to which Johnny could only nod his agreement. He was too damn exhausted to do much else.
He didn't get much sleep last night; he was too busy worrying about whether he had the worst case of stomach flu in the history of LA County or if Chet had given him food poisoning. Neither was an appealing prospect.
"So, do you think we'll actually get to eat lunch?" asked Roy tonelessly. They'd both sat down a couple of times earlier in the day in an attempt to eat something for breakfast. The third time they hadn't even gotten a chance to sit at the table. The tones sounded as soon as they'd entered the kitchen. Roy had grabbed a couple of apples for himself and Johnny; Roy ate his, while Johnny's remained on the seat beside him.
By the time they'd finished depositing their victim at Rampart and stopped to chat with Dixie while replenishing their supplies, it was close to noon. They'd been on four runs that morning. Both men feared they were going to break a new record. They practically crawled into the station.
"Anything left for lunch?" Roy asked as he saw the men gathered around the table.
"Well, there's some cold cuts, but there's also some leftover stew if you're interested. It's already been heated up in the pot," informed Marco.
"Good. I'm starved!" declared Roy. "What about you, Johnny? You want some stew?"
Johnny merely shook his head in the negative, grabbed a glass of water from the tap, and headed for the dorm. He knew since he hadn't eaten since dinner last night, he should have been hungry, but in truth he was feeling a little nauseous. He reached into his pocket for the small package of antacids he'd been carrying around with him. He quickly and surreptitiously chewed on a couple hoping they would alleviate some of the mild nausea he was feeling. Johnny figured his lack of appetite was just fatigue catching up with him and hoped that lying down on the couch would help him get over that.
Roy followed his silent partner and asked, "Hey partner? You okay?"
Johnny nodded and mumbled, "Just tired. Didn't get much sleep last night."
"You feel all right?" Roy asked with more concern.
Johnny hesitated for a moment. He was all ready to propose his theory that Chet's stew poisoned him but held his words in check when he realized that none of the other guys were experiencing any symptoms. In fact, they were gobbling up the leftovers.
The only rational possibility was that he had a nasty stomach flu that would certainly pass in a day or two. Problem was, he wasn't sure if mentioning his concerns to Roy would constitute forfeiture of the bet. He didn't think it was whining or complaining when he was really in discomfort, but just as he'd made his decision to confess his worries, Chet poked his head in the door.
"Hey Roy, the stew's getting cold. C'mon and eat!"
Roy hesitated for a moment, looked first at Chet and then back at Johnny. "Okay, Chet, be there in a second. Johnny, what about you?"
Chet remained at the doorway all ears, so Johnny clamped down on his initial feelings and merely said, "I'm good, Roy. Go eat; you never know when the tones are gonna sound. I'm gonna catch a few winks."
"Okay," Roy replied warily, but there was nothing in Gage's words that would cause him to doubt the veracity of his words. "I'll check on you in a bit."
Johnny nodded and closed his eyes. Sleep came quickly.
By the time the squad rolled back in from their eighth run of the shift, Johnny felt numb. Roy didn't look much better, but both men took comfort in that they hadn't lost a single patient that day. Sure there were a few no-brainers, but the last couple of runs had both men working at their greatest potential to save the victims' lives.
First there was an apartment house fire that spread quickly through the four stories. Johnny and Roy had worked fast and hard to retrieve the victims from their respective apartments. Both victims were unconscious, and suffered from severe burns and smoke inhalation. Roy's victim was a seventy-five year old male while Johnny's was a twelve-year-old boy, the elder man's grandson. Neighbors informed the paramedics the boy always went to his grandfather's apartment after he'd get home from school and change from his school uniform into his play clothes. He was a good boy, they kept saying over and over. He was a good man, they repeated as well.
It took all of Johnny's concentration and self-control to not yell out at the well-meaning neighbors to shut the hell up; they weren't dead yet and if he and Roy had their way, neither victim would die. Johnny worked like a man possessed when the youngster's heart suddenly stopped beating. He began CPR immediately and had Chet help out by bagging him.
Once he'd set up the biophone and sent an EKG strip over the line, the boy went into defib and Johnny set to work to shocking his patient as quickly as possible. He had to defibrillate the child twice, but his heart came back to life in a normal, sinus rhythm. John and Chet breathed a sigh of relief, and given that Johnny's patient was the less stable, it was decided he would be the one to ride in with the victims. Roy would follow behind in the squad.
The ambulance ride was quiet for the victims, but Johnny's discomfort only seemed to increase. His abdomen was becoming increasingly tender and he experienced more and more nausea. As he helped to unload the victims, he felt a little unsteady on his feet, and thought it might not be a bad idea to check himself out with the doctors.
Unfortunately, just as he made that decision, Johnny's young patient went into arrest again, and it was all that the paramedic could do to hop onto the gurney and begin compressions. By the time he finished, and the doctors were able to take over again, Johnny was exhausted. The last thing he wanted to do was be poked and prodded, and besides, Roy had already let him know they were toned out for another run.
The next run was an MVA that resulted in three cars careening into first one another and then the side of a road barrier. Unfortunately, one of the cars lay precariously over the barrier wall; its back end still on the road while its front end was tipped up over the barrier. It was frighteningly unbalanced, and both men recognized that if the car were to shift without being secured, the victims that were still in that car would fall down the side of the high cliff which the road overlooked.
Given that Johnny was both thinner and lighter weight, he was given the dubious honor of climbing into the vehicle to get vitals on the three victims inside, after the men secured the car as best they could to the engine. Once he was given the go ahead signal, John opened the back driver's side door as carefully as he could and then eased into the back seat. He scanned the front and saw the male driver, about fifty-five years of age was unconscious and bleeding badly from a scalp laceration. In the passenger seat was a woman, approximately forty-five to fifty, also unconscious, but with no visible lacerations other than some bruising to her right cheekbone. Both victims were breathing, though it was shallow at best.
John next turned his attention to the third victim who was in the back seat. It was a youngster of about three who was apparently flung around the back seat upon impact. The child, a male, was lying on the floor of the rear and was apparently thrown out of the lap belt that surrounded his too small hips and waist. Johnny reached down to take a pulse and to his relief found one, but it was weak and thready.
"Roy, we're gonna need a child's C-collar and a backboard," he called out. He'd become so engrossed in his ministrations that he actually forgot about his own discomfort. He grasped the backboard and placed the child gently onto the backboard. Then, with some help from Roy, he managed to lift the child out onto the ground so Roy could start working on him.
Meanwhile, Johnny returned to see about the adults seated up front. Johnny took a pulse first on the woman and then the man, and happily found them both to be strong. He wasn't sure if there were any serious injuries other than probable concussions, but a visual scan didn't show anything overt. He called for a couple of more C-Collars, just in case, and got assistance from both Chet and Marco in extricating the victims from their front seats.
They were able to remove the male from his driver's seat without too much difficulty. Just as John was about to push the backboard holding the female victim, he felt a major shift occur in the position of the car. John gave the backboard a final heave and then scrambled out of the car as quickly as possible. He landed on his hands and knees, but was safely out of the car as it began to fall forward down the cliff.
John stayed propped on his hands and knees for a few moments before he tried to get up. When he heard his name called, he forced himself up. Grimacing, he called out, "I'm coming, Roy." He made his way over to where Roy sat with the victims and began taking pulses and blood pressures and tried his best to immerse himself in the job at hand so as to take his mind off of his own discomfort.
And that discomfort was slowly but surely turning to a rather intense pain. By the time he and Roy were ready to bring their victims into Rampart, Johnny seriously considered having himself admitted with them. It was his nemesis that quickly changed his mind.
"Hey, Gage, I think your luck is changing, man!" declared Chet.
"Oh, why's that?"
"Hey, there was a time any car going down a cliff would have had your name on it! Man, you got out just in the nick of time, ya know?"
"Yeah, I know," he agreed.
"And not a scratch on you! Jeeze, this has got to be a new record for consecutive days without a reason to complain, doncha think?" he asked with a Cheshire grin.
"Yeah, a new record," he echoed tonelessly. "I gotta go drive the squad in, Chet. I'll see you back at the station."
So by the time the paramedic team returned to Station 51 both were exhausted, but Johnny was now in real pain and running a slight fever. All he wanted to do was take a shower and collapse into bed, and if need be he would do without the shower he was that tired. If they were toned out, John felt as if he would die from fatigue.
"C'mon Junior," Roy urged, "let's go get a bite to eat."
"Roy, if I don't see the inside of a shower real soon, I'm gonna faint," he diverted. "I'll eat later." Gage moved immediately to the showers before his partner or anyone else could argue with him. His partner, unfortunately, did not realize how close to the truth John's words were.
He stripped and stood under the hot shower, as hot as he thought he could stand it, hoping it would soothe the once dull abdominal ache which had since turned more intense. He braced himself up against the wall and aimed the shower at the source of pain. It was getting harder to take deep breaths without wincing from the sharp ache.
Johnny was no longer so sure it was just the flu. All he knew was that he was feeling less than perfect and just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a year or two. Johnny changed into clean clothes and made sure everything was in place in case the klaxons sounded. He slid into bed and was asleep in minutes.
He didn't even hear Chet calling him to dinner.
"Hey, Johnny, c'mon, Mike's got dinner on," announced Chet as he entered the dorm. "Johnny?" Chet walked closer toward the bed to get a better view of what Johnny was doing and was rather surprised to see him sound asleep.
"Hey, Gage? Aren't you hungry?" he asked. When Johnny did not respond Chet moved closer toward the bunk where Johnny lay. "Hey, Gage?" Chet looked closer and noticed John's flushed cheeks and power grip around the blanket. "You feel okay, John?" This time the response was a low moan. "C'mon John, if ya don't feel well, say something," Chet urged.
"'M tired," he muttered, and then added, "Go 'way."
"Okay, man. I guess we'll save some food for ya," he acquiesced and walked back into the kitchen.
"Johnny coming?" asked Mike as he dished up the baked ziti.
"Nah, he said he was too tired. I found him sleeping."
"Yeah, it's been a long day of way too many runs. I could probably fall asleep in my plate of food, too," explained Roy.
"Yeah, but the point is you're taking time to eat," Chet observed and then added, "When's the last time anyone saw Gage eat something?"
The men sat around the table and looked at one another as they murmured their 'I dunnos' with confused expressions on their faces. "He must have eaten when we weren't watching, Chet. I'm sure he's just tired," Marco said pragmatically.
Roy sat with his chin in his hand, silently rubbing his chin and wondering exactly when was the last time he'd seen his partner eat anything of substance. "The stew."
"What?" asked the guys practically in unison.
"The last thing I saw him eat was the stew that Chet served last night for dinner. Didn't see him eat anything today though. You, guys?" asked Roy.
"No, not that I can think of," recalled Marco and the others concurred. "What did he say, Chet?"
"Just that he was tired," he replied. "Could be he's just tired, right Roy? I mean, he's probably not sick or anything and being a dumbass and keeping it to himself, right?" Chet was obviously feeling a little uncomfortable at this point. As much as he loved teasing John and enjoyed having him as his favorite pigeon, the last thing Chet wanted to see happen was Gage become ill. Playing with a pigeon on an unequal playing field just wasn't as much fun.
"I'm sure he's just tired, Chet. Roy will check on him later though, if it'll ease your mind that is," suggested Hank with a bit of a wry smile.
"Ease my mind? Ease _my_ mind? C'mon, Cap, it's not like I'm worried about the guy or anything, jeeze! Just wanna make sure that if he's gonna start his whining and crying that it better be for something or someone's gonna see the inside of the latrine for the next month, and it ain't gonna be me!"
"No, of course not, Chet," agreed Hank, but with a smile that spread wide across his face.
"Aw, Cap, can't a guy eat dinner in peace?"
Roy did look in on Johnny before he slipped into his own bunk. Though he appeared a bit flushed, Johnny did seem to be sleeping comfortably. Roy decided to leave him be and hoped his pal would get the chance to sleep through the night.
Some hours passed when Johnny felt himself shivering in his bunk. He lay awake momentarily before the pain hit him so hard it took his breath away. "Oh God," he whimpered. He instinctively grasped his abdomen and clutched at himself in a desperate effort to relieve some of the agony, as he raised his knees up to his chest in an almost fetal position. "Oh God, please," he cried softly. He slowly changed his position and it was at that point that his breath caught at the amount of pain he was in.
It was also at that moment that Johnny realized what was most likely wrong with him. "Some damned paramedic I turned out to be," he berated himself. "Roy," he called out, but his voice was really no louder than a raspy whisper. He couldn't take in enough of a breath to raise the volume of his voice. "Roy," he tried once again, but soon realized how futile that was.
He tried to get himself to a sitting position, but it was impossible. He was simply in too much pain, and quite frankly, it was starting to scare the hell out of him. Johnny had a good idea that his so-called stomach flu was really appendicitis, but if it were in the stage he thought it was now in, he could be in some real trouble.
"Roy," he cried out again, but as he did he slowly rolled himself out of the bunk onto his hands and knees. He prayed the others didn't wake up; it would be humiliating enough if the guys discovered he couldn't diagnose himself out of a paper bag, but if they found him crawling on the floor to Roy like a little baby, he didn't know how he'd live it down. He especially did not want to give the Phantom anymore fodder to play with.
"Roy," he winced and had to stop. "Please. Roy, please," he moaned. The pain was now localized to the lower right quadrant. Each time he pressed his stomach he could feel his abdominal muscles reflexively constrict in a 'guarding' response. He felt nauseous and feared that if he started vomiting, he'd never stop. "Roy," he cried out.
He knelt by Roy's bunk and clumsily laid a hand on Roy's shoulder. Still sleeping, Roy awkwardly swatted at Johnny's hand and tried to drift back into a deep sleep. "Roy," Johnny whispered anxiously. "Roy. Wake. Up," he gritted out.
"Wha'?" mumbled Roy. This was the first night in two nights they hadn't been toned out, and he was upset that he was being awakened without an explanation.
"Roy," Johnny practically sobbed. "Hurts."
That woke up his partner. In fact Roy was now wide awake.
"What hurts, Johnny?" he asked as calmly as he could manage given the situation. He knew John tended to be melodramatic when it came to the unimportant, little nuisance hurts, but when it came to the major injuries or illnesses, he was normally as stoic as they came. Roy looked at his friend and realized he was being anything but stoic at that moment. The man was in pain. A lot of it.
When he received no verbal response, Roy climbed out of bed and tried to help John up to the bed. There was no way he was able to do it. Roy soon realized just how badly his partner was hurting and helped him lay down on the floor beside his bunk.
"Tell me," Roy said. His succinct words told Johnny everything he needed to tell.
"'cute," he muttered.
"What's cute?" asked Chet as he stumbled over to Roy's bunk. "Damn, can't a guy catch any shuteye around here?"
"Chet, shh! Please," begged Roy. "Tell me."
"Hot appy, Roy," he rasped.
"Oh, Johnny," Roy moaned as he began to take his friend's pulse. "Chet, go get the biophone and the drug case. NOW!"
Chet ran like he'd never run before.
"Cap, we're going to need an ambulance. Looks like my partner here has a hot appendix, and he's gonna need a free ride to our favorite watering hole," said Roy, trying to keep things light, but in reality knew just how close to a burst appendix his partner probably was at that moment.
"Oh, God, Roy. It hurts," Johnny cried out as he tried unsuccessfully to keep his legs stretched out in front of him. Instead, he reflexively pulled his knees up to his stomach in an attempt to ease the strain on his abdominal muscles.
"I know, Pally," Roy tried to soothe, "I know. We're gonna take care of you now though, okay?" Roy looked around and muttered aloud, "Where the hell is Chet?"
No sooner had Roy uttered that remark than Chet appeared with both the drug box and the biophone. He quickly helped Roy open up both cases. "How is he, Roy?" Chet asked with concern.
"I should have listened to you before, Chester B. You knew my partner was hurtin' before I did," Roy sad remorsefully.
"No," rasped out Johnny. "I didn't even know."
"Yeah, right," Roy commented knowingly. Roy knew he was right when Johnny said nothing to contradict him. "Okay, Junior, I'm gonna contact Rampart, so just hang in there for me."
Johnny nodded his head slightly; it was too painful to do much more than that unless it was absolutely necessary. He was extremely nauseous and feared any extra movement would cause him to vomit his guts out, which Johnny knew could not possibly add to his comfort level.
"Roy?" It was a plea.
"I know, Junior. I'm gonna see what we can do for you, okay?"
Roy connected with Rampart and immediately acknowledged the voice of Dr. Morton on the other end. "Rampart, this is Squad 51. We have a male, 26 years old who is exhibiting severe abdominal pain. Be advised the victim is John Gage."
"What is the location of the pain, Squad 51?"
"Sharp pain located in the lower right quadrant, Rampart. There is evidence of rebound pain as well."
"Okay, Squad 51, what are the vitals?"
"Rampart, BP is 120/90, respiration is 20, and shallow. The victim is also running a fever."
"Set up an IV with D5W and transport as soon as possible," ordered Dr. Morton.
"That's IV with D5W. Rampart? The patient is complaining of severe pain. Request permission to administer MS."
"That's a negative, Squad 51. We can't do anything to mask the pain at this time, until a diagnosis is made," Morton said firmly, but then added gently, "Sorry, Roy."
"Ten-four, Rampart. The ambulance has just pulled up, and we're going to transport immediately."
Roy quickly closed up shop and helped the attendants pick Johnny up onto the stretcher. Roy felt himself wince for Johnny with each and every movement as the younger paramedic flinched and moaned in pain with each extra movement.
Chet followed the ambulance in the squad.
When they arrived at the hospital, Johnny was promptly brought into Treatment Room 2 where Morton was ready and waiting for him. The nurses promptly cut John's uniform slacks and underwear off of him, as another of the nurses draped Johnny with a surgical sheet. He'd ordered the usual tests, including a CBC to determine Johnny's white blood cell count.
Morton began his examination of his patient when he looked up and noticed Roy was still in the room. "Roy, why don't you go wait outside. I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I know anything," he said gently.
"I'd rather stay, Doc," Roy responded.
"I know you would, but I need to do a thorough exam and, well, Roy? Johnny may not be comfortable with a whole bunch of people in here, ya know what I mean?" he asked.
It suddenly dawned on Roy what Morton was hinting at and the paramedic realized immediately that Morton was actually treating Roy and Johnny with more diplomacy than Roy had ever thought possible. "Yeah, I understand. I'll be outside though, so as soon as you know what's what, you'll let me know, right, Dr. Morton?"
"Yes, Roy, I promise," responded the doctor and proceeded to give his attention back solely to his patient.
Morton moved the surgical sheet down which exposed Johnny right above the pelvic region. He had a good view of his stomach and noted the rigidity present. He then pressed down on various areas of John's stomach traveling in a clockwise fashion and noted that the time John reacted to pain was when Morton lifted his hands. This was a classic example of rebound pain.
The most notable reactions to pain occurred when Dr. Morton pressed down on the lower right quadrant of Gage's abdomen. It seemed to be a localized pain, which made Morton's tentative diagnosis ever the more probable. He also noted Gage's almost involuntary position of lying with his knees flexed and pulled up to his abdomen. This was obviously a gesture to relieve muscle tension in the abdomen.
Next, Morton lifted the sheet up a bit to expose Johnny's legs. He asked the nurse to help move him down on the table and to help him place his feet in the stirrups at the end in order to perform a rectal exam. Though Morton suspected this would prove painful to his patient, he knew it would further prove his suspected diagnosis of appendicitis. The only question was how severe was it?
When Gage cried out in agony at Morton's intrusion, he realized that they were probably acting on borrowed time. He was sure that the tests would come back with substantiating proof and immediately called in a surgical consult.
Joe Early was assigned the ER
that night and arrived soon after the request was made. By the time Joe
finished his preliminary tests, the blood work-ups and CBC returned showing
an elevated white count. When Morton reported his findings after the rectal
exam, Joe said it was time to move their friend upstairs to surgery, and
"I'm afraid he's got a badly infected appy," remarked Joe. "Damn thing could blow at any moment," he murmured more to himself.
They rolled the gurney and assorted IV's that had been started out of the treatment room and towards the elevator. Johnny had been given a sedative to help ease the pain a bit as well as prepare him for the surgery and anesthesia. Joe walked along side the gurney and accompanied his patient upstairs, while Dr. Morton walked over to the ER waiting room to find Roy and fill him in.
When he opened the door, Morton observed two of LA County's bravest; Roy sitting in a chair with only his right leg shaking up and down in nervous movement and Chet who was pacing madly back and forth across the small room. Upon seeing Morton walk in, both men jumped up in their place and practically rushed the young resident.
"How is he, Doc?" asked Chet quickly. "Is he gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, Dr. Morton, how is he?" asked Roy anxiously.
"He's going up to surgery, fellas. Dr. Early plans on assisting to keep an eye on him," he responded. "It's a hot appendix."
"Did it burst?" asked Roy with concern.
"No, not yet, he was still feeling too much pain."
"Huh?" responded Chet in confusion. "Wouldn't he be feeling more pain if the thing burst?"
"Well, no, not initially. You see, Chet, the appendix is swollen from the infection, and if the appendix would burst, the swelling would recede and therefore reduce the pain."
"Oh. And this is a bad thing because?" he asked innocently.
"It's a bad thing because the reason for the swelling and infection would travel throughout Gage's bloodstream and infect every part of his body. Peritonitis would be the result, and that can prove very dangerous." When he saw the puzzled look on Chet's face he simply said, "It's an infection of the peritoneum, which is the membrane or cover that lines the abdomen and the organs of the body."
"No, I guess that wouldn't be a good thing, huh," he said. He was quiet for a moment and looked as if he wanted to say something else, but he hesitated. Roy sensed something was on his mind and asked him what it was.
"I dunno, Roy, I just have this horrible feeling that he got sick because of our stupid bet," confessed Chet.
Roy sighed. He knew the appendicitis was not a result of the bet; if Johnny was going to get appendicitis, he was going to get it bet or no bet. The question though was if it weren't for the bet would it have reached the severe stage that it's obviously reached? Roy was not certain about that, but given Johnny's stubborn streak, Roy wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Johnny had been keeping his weakened condition a secret in deference to the bet.
But Chet was already feeling guilty enough, and if indeed Johnny was keeping quiet, that was certainly his choice and not Chet's fault. "Don't worry about it, Chet. Johnny's a big boy; he's got to learn you can't keep things like this a secret no matter what prize is at stake."
Chet nodded slightly, but Roy knew he still wasn't totally convinced. Though the Irishman would never admit in so many words just how important John Gage was to him, Chet always managed to demonstrate what a significant role Johnny played in his life.
Dr. Morton told the two firemen to go upstairs to the surgical waiting room. The procedure itself wouldn't take very long at all.
It actually seemed to take forever.
Roy soon became the one who paced the perimeter of the waiting room while Chet sat and nervously tapped his foot. The surgery was only supposed to take about a half-hour or so, but it was over an hour and a half since John was taken into the operating room.
If Roy took one more step, Chet thought he was going to throw something at his friend. "Roy, take a break, man!"
"What's taking them so long?" he asked with worry.
"How the hell am I supposed to know; you're the damn paramedic!" Chet replied with agitation.
Just as worry was going to grab each of the men by the throat and threaten to choke them, Dr. Early walked into the room.
"Doc?" both men called out in unison.
"C'mon boys, let's sit down and I'll explain to you what's going on."
Early led both men over to the chairs and then pulled another chair over and seated himself across from them. "Okay, here's the deal. Johnny's out of surgery and in the recovery room."
"Everything's okay then, right Doc?" asked Chet hopefully.
"Well, yes and no." Both men startled at that remark and Dr. Early hastened to explain. "The appendix burst as we went in. We had to perform a lavage and wash the abdominal cavity out with some saline. Now, because we have to make sure all of the infected matter drains out, we've inserted a tube in the infected area to drain off the pus. It doesn't sound terribly pleasant, and to be honest, it's not. He's not going to be a happy camper for the next couple of weeks, and he's not going to be fit for duty for at least a couple of more after that."
"But he's going to be okay, right?" repeated Chet. The man always did have a one-track mind when it came to his shift-mate's health.
"Yes, Chet, I believe he will be, but it's not going to be a simple recovery. He's suffering from peritonitis and we've got to watch him very carefully to make sure the infection abates quickly. He's been weakened by the infection even more, so his recovery time will take longer. And we all know how much Johnny loves to be confined, so we're going to have to be extra vigilant to keep our young friend reigned in, okay?"
Both men nodded, and then Roy asked, "Can we see him?"
"He's going to be brought up to ICU in another twenty minutes or so. We'll let you in to see him for a few minutes then," Dr. Early replied.
"Thanks, Doc," Roy said, "Thanks for everything."
Both men were allowed to visit for only a few minutes. Johnny was still very groggy from the anesthesia as well as the antibiotics and pain medication.
Roy never could get used to entering an ICU and seeing his friend lying in a bed there. Thankfully there were a minimum number of tubes and machines but still enough beeping monitors to give one pause.
"Hey, Junior," encouraged Roy, "looks like everything went fine. You're gonna be doing a little hospital time, but you're gonna be okay."
"Yeah, Johnny, Doc Early says you did okay," cheered on Chet.
"Hey," rasped John.
"You need something to wet your lips?" asked Roy understanding. When he saw the affirming nod, Roy reached over for the pitcher and found it filled with ice chips. He picked up the spoon that lay nearby and offered his friend a small, soothing spoonful.
"Mmmm," he purred. "Good."
"Yeah, I bet," Roy said.
"Well, listen, I guess we should let you rest," suggested Roy.
"Um, yeah, okay," responded Chet reluctantly. "But before we go, Johnny, I gotta ask ya one question."
"Mmmm," he acknowledged.
"Johnny, tell me you didn't keep your appendicitis from us because of the stupid bet."
He let out an involuntary chuckle that quickly turned into a low moan of pain. "Oh, don't make me laugh. Still hurts."
"I don't understand what's so funny," Chet responded confused.
"Didn't think 'pendix," he tried to explain.
"You didn't think you were sick?" Roy tried to interpret.
"No...hurtin' but didn't think 'pendix. First, thought food poison."
"Food poisoning? From what?" asked Chet immediately.
"What do you think?" Johnny asked in a whisper.
"Hey," exclaimed Chet when understanding finally dawned, "There was nothing wrong with my stew, pally!"
"I know," Johnny admitted. He paused for a moment and tried to take a deep breath. His abdomen was still way too tender for him to do so comfortably, so his voice remained weak and hoarse. "So, figured it was stomach flu. Took some Pepto and figured I could handle it. Felt dumb," Johnny managed to convey.
"You thought you had the stomach flu and didn't want to tell us?" asked Roy. "Why not, Johnny?"
"'barrassed," he admitted. "Didn't wanna hear all the 'stop your belly-aching jokes'," he mimicked in a feeble imitation of his friend.
"But it wasn't because of the bet, was it?" Chet asked earnestly. He didn't want to feel as if he were responsible for Johnny's extra pain.
"Nah." Johnny winced as he coughed to try and clear his throat. Roy understood and immediately fed his partner another spoonful of ice chips. "Mmmm, good. Thanks, Roy."
Chet immediately accepted John's explanation and sighed with relief. Sure, he could see himself tossing out a couple of 'belly-aching' jokes, but he could see the other guys doing that, too. Heck, even Roy would have teased him about that. But it wasn't the dumb bet. Chet felt as if a weight was lifted off his shoulders.
"But you know, Gage, if you really wanted to get out of latrine duty, you could have done something a little less extreme and a little more imaginative," he razzed with a clear conscious.
"Yeah, Chet, 'spose so."
"Yeah, well, now we really have to get going. You need your beauty sleep, and come to think of it, so do I," chuckled Roy relieved to see his partner awake and talking.
"Mmm, 'kay guys," Johnny murmured, and then added ever so softly, "Thank you, Roy. Thanks, Chet."
"Anytime, Pally," both men replied happily, "Anytime."
End of The Bet
Once again I must thank my two betas, dee_ayy and Peggy for their efforts in helping me to remain truer to the Emergency! Universe. I thank dee_ayy for helping me with E! canon and Peggy for helping me with the medical aspects of the story. I am so grateful to having you in both the CyberWorld and the real world! May brunch time come quickly!!
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